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How to Build A High Converting Website

(From Scratch!)


Most websites only convert 2% of their visitors into customers. We can improve this number significantly by performing Conversion Rate Optimization.

How it Works

To make more sales from our website we perform Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). In CRO we make design choices based on human psycology – not on what we think looks nice. Fancy graphics and effects have their place in the design but are more of an afterthought. The main driver of the design is what will have the biggest impact on sales.


It is difficult to learn something without an example – so throughout the rest of this guide I’ll be trying to give lots of examples. It’s much easier to learn that way. NOTE: I drink my own kool-aid – so you can also look around this website to see principals of CRO in action 🙂


A FRUSTRATING thing about CRO is that we don’t actually know for sure what will work! What we do have is a list of best practices and things that usually work. So we start by implementing the best practices and then test and make changes to determine what will work best for your specific audience.

Rule #1 – Know Your Audience

Rule #1 for a reason. If you don’t have a firm grasp on who your audience is, you’ll never be able to create the content that they need in order to become a customer.

Why it Affects Conversions

Human beings by default are drawn towards what they are familiar or comfortable with. Our goal when designing a website that brings in more sales should be to make our visitor as comfortable as possible. Every one of our design choices should consider this rule.


This strategy alone has lead to a 400% increase in conversions [source


Consider your past customers. Probably 80% of them will fit a certain demographic. For example, if you own a vegan bakery you would probably be catering to much different demographics than a plumber (of course there is always overlap – rememebr 80%). If you’re a plumber your demographics may look something like this:


  • Middle aged couple
  • Caucasian
  • English first language
  • Homeowners
  • Upper middle class
  • Children out of house
  • Prefer to call over text or email

Not Exclusive!

Of course we will sell our product or service to anyone who wants to buy. But likely 80% of our sales will come from a certain demographic. We should aim to capture as much of this market as possible by designing based on this market in mind. The more we know about our target market the more we can design to their specific needs and make them feel like we understand them.

Rule #2 – Don’t Confuse Your Customer

A visitor that gets confused will go somewhere else. If you havn’t specifically thought about not confusing your customer you probably are. This is costing you a lot of money.

Why it Happens

Wheather you know it or not you’re plaged by The Curse of Knowedge. This is a phenomenon that causes you to speak over your customers head because you’re so familiar with your industry. The solution is to ‘dumb down’ your website’s content to make it more clear for your audience. You also want to make design choices that are familiar to your customer and not try to be super creative. Some other common ways you can confuse your customer:
  • Too much text in one spot – they will not read it
  • Strange website navigation – just put your logo on the left and menu on the right like everyone else – don’t be clever
  • Not having a clickable logo that takes you to the home page
  • Too much complicated or outdated information
Simplifying a homepage has a 37% increase in conversions [source]

Example #1

I took this screenshot of a company’s headline:

Now tell me, what does this company do?

You can’t because it’s all buzz-words that don’t mean anything! 

Don’t make this mistake yourself.

How to Fix it!

The best way is to watch someone from your target audience use your website. That way you can be sure they understand what you’re trying to show them.

Rule #3 – Create A Compelling Headline

The headline is most important piece of content on your page. It is read 5x more often than the rest of your website’s text. It will determine if the visitor continues to explore the page further or go somewhere else.

How to Create It

It is extremely important to be clear and specific. Your headline should convey your value proposition (what makes you better than the competition). It should also call out your target market so they know they are in the right place. If someone from your target market reads your headline they should want to keep exploring the rest of your website.
Changing a headline improved conversions by 90% [source]

Bad Example

A bad headline for an arborist would be: Arborist Serving Middlesex County Top Rated – Fast Quotes – Fully Licenced The arborist’s customers may get confused. (I would bet a significant portion of their customers don’t even know that they’re called that). In addition the subhead points are not specific – so they don’t really mean anything (top rated by who?)

Good Example

A good headline for the arborist would be: London Ontario Tree Cutting and Removal 5 Star Google Rated – Same Day Quotes – Arborist Licence #123456 This headline is more inline with what the market is searching. It also offers specific benefits in the subhead.(I have no idea if arborist are licenced…but you get the point)

A Fun Headline Hack!

A great hack it to do keyword research with google keyword panner and find out what phrases your potential customers are actively searching for. Then use that exact language in your headline 🙂

Rule #4 – Use Appropriate Images

Images are a great way to display your product or service. They have a huge benefit over text and video: The viewer doesn’t have to click the play button or read any text. Any information in an image is instantly absorbed by your website vistor.

What to Consider

Some do’s and don’ts of website images:


  • Use high quality clear images
  • Show multiple angles of your product
  • Show someone doing your service
  • Show your target market using your product or service
  • Show faces and emotion
  • Use next gen webp images for faster loading time
  • Lazy load images


  • Use large file sizes
  • Use Stock photography
  • Use blurry or out of focus photos
  • Show the back of heads
  • Make logos large

Changing an image can increase conversions by 200%+ [source]

Bad Example

A bad image example for an electrician would be:

This is called a stock photo because it’s staged. You can tell it’s staged because of a few factors:
  1. The lighting is perfect
  2. The man’s clothing is perfectly clean and pressed
  3. The insturment he is using only works if both ends are touching something… and one end is dangling out of the photo
As a result this looks fake (because it is) and this turns off our website visitor. We need to be much more authentic.

Good Example

A bad image example for an electrician would be:
The background isn’t perfect, the lighting isn’t perfect. The men don’t have nice uniforms. But it looks authentic and real – I’m willing to bet these men are actually electricians.

How to Find Great Images

The key to success is….. Take them yourself!

Rule #5 – Make the Next Step Easy

Every single page on your website should have a purpose. The website visitor should know what they need to do next. We need to push them to the desired action.

What to Consider

It is important to keep in mind rules #1 and #2 when desiging your website. What do your website visitors need to know or understand before they will be willing to contact you or buy your product? How can you show them as simply as possible. DO
  • Make a plan for each page – what is it’s purpose?
  • Build trust before asking for large sales
  • Consider visitors who are ready to buy now and those who need more information
  • Assume people will just ‘know what to do’
  • Assume people will just pull the trigger even if they do know what to do.
Designing with this in mind increased conversions by 393% for Zen Windows [source]


If I owned a law firm I’d assume two main audiences:

  1. People who are already familiar and trust my business and just need basic contact info
  2. People who do not yet trust the business – there will be a seperate path for them to take

The first audience is covered by the basics: clear design, good headline, nice photos and easy access to information.

For the second audience we need to do a lot more work – this is a much bigger audience so it is worth doing. Since this is a service based business I would create multiple showcases to demonstrate the results I can get for my clients or have multiple videos teaching them law basics. There is actually a law firm in london that does this via the radio – cohen highley lawyers (their website could use some work however).

At the end of each showcase the visitor can either contact us or view more. The user flow looks like this:

Rule #6 – Leverage Video

It’s 2020. If you’re not using video on your website you are leaving money on the table. Video is the most powerful way to build trust with your audience – and you can do it fast.

How to Use Video

If You’re Selling a Service Create a video that teaches the visitor exactly how to do the service. Your potential visitors will see you demonstraing your expertise and want to choose you instead of your competitors. People who were going to do it themselves anyway were never going to become customers so don’t worry about giving the knowedge away. If You’re Selling a Product Create a video showing the product in use. Every single product on your site should have a video attached to it.
Showing product videos increases conversion rate by 247% [source]


If I was a custom jewelry store I would have a video of each and every item. Even better if you can show that Item being designed and made.

Rule #7 – Have a Plan

A big mistake in marketing is trying to be the hero in your customers life. Instead think of your customer as the hero and yourself as the guide. The guide always has a plan for success.

How to Have a Plan

My favourite way to demonstrate a plan is with a simple 3-5 step process that I lay out in a series of words and images. They should be easy to understand so that your potential customer can easily grasp what needs to be done next.

Besides this you want to teach and give away as much information as possible. Become the guide!


This can increase conversions by 300% or more [source]


Home Renovision is a youtube channel that teaches home renovating tehniques. The man who runs it is a ‘guide’.  I bet his youtube channel fill his business with more leads than he can handle since so many people watch and then decide they’d rather have a professional handle it than try and tackle it themselves.

Rule #8 – Calm Their Fears

It’s very possible that your visitor has never heard of you before the moment they land on your page. They are right to be skeptacle of what you’re saying. It’s your job to show them they have nothing to be worried about.

How to Reassure your Customer

The best way to reassure your customer is to communicate proof. Ideally from a trusted 3rd party source like Google or Facebook. In order from lest effective to most effective have reviews in these styles:
  • text review with first name last initial and no photo
  • text review with full name and no photo
  • text review with full name and photo
  • video review with full name [best]
More reviews is always better. You should also make it easy for your customer to leave reviews. A few more ways to reassure your customer:
  • Money back guarantee / warranty policies
  • Have an ‘about’ page with information about your company
  • Have an address and phone number that are easy to find
  • Include logos of 3rd party organizations you’re a part of
  • Include any metions in news or local media
  • Mention any famous customers or clients that use your product or service
These strategies helped contribute to a 400% increase in conversions for voices.com so don’t ignore! [source]

Example #1

The consulting.com reviews page is a great example. It’s a business that teaches people how to become consultants. They are shoving so much proof in your face – how can you not buy their course if you’re in their target market?

Example #2

Buying a mattress? Casper.com offers 100 night guarantee – they will come pick up your mattress and give you a full refund if you aren’t happy within 100 days. Completely elimates their customers fears.

Rule #9 – Don’t Frustrate Your Customer

The last thing you want to do to someone you’re trying to sell to is annoy them. Yet businesses do this all the time. Keep your customers calm and increase profits.

How to Keep Your Customer Calm

A few things you should always do to keep your customer happy:
  1. Make your site load as fast as possible
  2. Make sure clicking the logo takes you to the home page
  3. Have your contact info at the bottom of every page
  4. Ensure your site works well on mobile devices
  5. If possible, never show ads
Every 0.1 seconds in extra page load time reduces revenue by 1% [source]

Rule #10 – Test Test Test

This is where the magic happens. This is where all the money is made. This is how we go from an average conversion rate of 2% to over 10% in some cases.

Why we Test

Every audience, product, and service is different. We have our best practices (rules #1-#9) but we don’t actually know what will work in every situation until we test! Thankfully there are a few different softwares to make our job easy.
  • Analytics – tells us tons of info – how many site visitors, where the’re from, what pages they visit and for how long
    • google analytics is the standard
  • Heat Mapping – watch real time playback of your visitors using your site to see what parts they like and what they don’t – what gets viewed and what gets skipped – very powerful
    • Crazy Egg
    • Hotjar
  • A/B Testing – serve two different versions of the same page to different visitors and see what converts better – change headlines, images, videos – test everything!
    • Google Optimize
    • Optimizely
    • VWO
    • Unbounce
All the results I previously mentioned were only possible because someone was measuring and testing.

How to Start

The best way to start is put google analytics on your site and start colleting data. It’s also very important to know some key metrics about your business – like average profit per customer. Then you can calculate some interesting things like average profit per webiste visitor Now you know how much you can pay for ads since you can buy ads and measure how many people come to your website! Most of your competitors don’t know this number. Its powerful information.

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